Have you ever woken up with a song floating through the fog in your mind? Sometimes I think that’s just an echo of a dream or a memory, particularly if it’s a song I’ve heard or sung recently.
How about a song from your ancient history in your mind as you woke? I actually pay more attention to these; there’s less chance that it’s just my subconscious expressing itself.
I’d like to share one of these with you. You may find the process interesting, but I believe the lesson might apply to several of us.
Recently, I woke up with a song from my youth playing in my mind, and trust me, that’s from a long time ago. The song had nothing to do with the dream as far as I could tell, and I could only remember snippets of it – really only one phrase.
But that phrase kept replaying in my mind: that caught my attention. And as it replayed, my memory of the lyrics grew. This also suggested to me that this might be from God. So I spoke with Father about it, acknowledging that I thought he might be up to something; I asked for insight, and I paid attention as the memory of the song replayed and expanded in my mind.
Some themes began to stand out in the lyrics that kept playing in my memory. One of them definitely seemed to have the fragrance of my Father about it, so I meditated on that one. That is, I thought about it; I let it roll around in my mind to see what might come from it.
When my mind began to warm up (you know, I really appreciate the fact that God invented coffee!), I fired up Google and looked into it a bit more. And I realized that even after my memory had been playing it back for an hour or two, I had remembered only one verse out of five; the rest hadn’t come back to me, though those verses had actually been more important to me when the song was new.
Here’s the song: https://youtu.be/MYPJOCxSUFc. It’s called The Boxer, by Simon & Garfunkel. It was the last verse alone that spoke to me through the morning fog:
In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains*
This verse had literally never made sense to me, but suddenly, there was a message in it for me.
It speaks to me, but I’d like to share it with you, because I suspect it might speak to other, too, and maybe that includes you.
I confess: I’m a man of fairly strong conviction. I stand up for those convictions, and it’s not inappropriate to say that I fight to maintain them. If I believe something to be true, I’ll fight to defend it.
Father gently pointed out that I, too, carry reminders of those fights, reminders, I suppose, every glove that laid me down or cut me till I cried out. I’ve paid a price to defend my convictions. Like the fighter in the song, the price has been paid in several areas of my life: in my memories, in my body carrying the stress, in the solitude that comes from having lost relationships.
Then he drew my attention to the fighter’s vow, and that I’ve made vows like that as well: “I am leaving, I am leaving” but I don’t leave. I remain. I still defend my beliefs, my convictions, and I’m still laid down and cut up sometimes. I’m still wounded from the fights that I am convinced are right and good. And they still bring the fruits of “anger and shame” into my life, just like they did in his.
(Didn’t someone say “You shall know them by their fruit”? Hmmm....)
This is something that’s come partly from my character (I believe that standing up for “what is true” is important), partly from my youth (I was taught that truth is important and should be stood up for).
But this fight may have been fanned into the biggest flame from my years in Bible-believing churches. “This is what I believe to be true, so I must defend it at all costs.” We teach that, we believe that, in many evangelical churches, and while we defend different truths in denominational churches, we still defend them vigorously.
Think about how Christians respond when a movie comes that we don’t like out (remember Russell Crowe’s Noah?). Consider how Christians respond to “The Homosexual Agenda” or to political candidates, or to the abortion issue.
We’re taught to fight. And we do fight. Vigorously.
And let’s be honest. We don’t win these fights.
Hollywood’s marketing now counts on “Christian
outrage” as a publicity tool for their controversial movies, and they’re always
right. Christians have not affected “The Homosexual Agenda” that we’ve stood
against, abortion is still a very big business, and we’ve never once had an
Evangelical believer in the Whitehouse, despite our fights on those issues.
The world knows: Christians are fighters. They don’t win, but they sure will fight. Behold how much they fight.
Father hasn’t been talking to me at this time about the issues in themselves. He’s only been using them to illustrate the fight, to illustrate the blows and the cuts that so many of us have taken in the fights.
Then he drew my attention to the refrain:
“Lie-la-lie. Lie-la-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie, Lie-la-lie
Oh my. It’s right there. I’ve sung this haunting refrain with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and I never saw it: there’s a lie here, and the refrain rubs my nose in it. That’s a lie, lie lie!
There’s perhaps some room for discussing what the lie is. The song itself identifies one:
“He cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains.”*
And I’ve done that. I’ve declared that I’m quitting this fight. But I haven’t really done it. I’ve lied. I’ve gotten tired of being beaten up, tired of the anger, tired of the shame, and I’ve tried to quit the fight. And I’ve failed.
As Father comforted me in this, I realized that for a fighter, the fight is a choice. It’s an option, but only one of several options. I don’t actually need to fight.
As he held me and murmured his love for me, I realized that these are not fights that have helped me, or have helped the Kingdom, not even a little bit.
I occasionally have “won” a fight, but what was the result? Maybe I could say I won, that I defeated someone who believed differently. So what? Now they’ve been defeated, now they’re wounded, too. And now they resent me, and worse they resent my message, and they resent the truth that I fought for.
You know, I don’t think anybody’s ever been bullied into receiving the truth, have they? Oh, sure, we’ve bullied people into acting like they know the truth, but that’s just equipping them for hypocrisy. That’s not a win, not really, not for anybody.
For myself, I’m going to reflect on this for a while. I’m wondering if I might actually defend my beliefs better by walking them out than I would by fighting for them. I don’t know. I’ll think about it.
I may not need to be a fighter, alone in the clearing. I may not need to be laid down, cut open. I may not need to subject myself to the anger and shame.
The Kingdom is not about any of this, is it?
Lie la lie….
* From "The Boxer," by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water (1970) ©1969